What is Happening at South Right Now? Explaining the Stringer License Situation


Caleb Stipkovits

Brett Stringer’s provisional license (a temporary license) expired on June 30th, making him an un-licensed administrator. He has a chance to get his license extended at the Board of School Administrators’ (BOSA) next meeting on October 25th.

On August 12th, 2021, a citizen’s complaint notified the Minnesota Board of School Administrators (BOSA) that South High Principal Brett Stringer’s provisional license had expired. BOSA is responsible for managing the licensure of administrators throughout the state of Minnesota. Mr. Stringer’s license, which expired on June 30th, allowed him to act as principal of South High School while he completed the coursework required for his Minnesota license. Unfortunately, Mr. Stringer didn’t complete his licensure coursework before June 30th. As a result, he has recently been reassigned to the Davis Center, Minneapolis Public Schools’ headquarters, and will not be in person at South.

Mr. Stringer, who was a licensed administrator in Colorado but not Minnesota, was granted a two-year provisional license on July 1st, 2019. A provisional license gives candidates time to complete a BOSA-approved administrative program at schools in Minnesota, while still having the role of an administrator. In other words, this allowed Mr. Stringer to serve as principal at South while giving him time to complete the required coursework for his license. According to Dr. Anthony Kinkel, BOSA’s Executive Director, provisional licenses are issued to administrators with experience who are moving from other states to Minnesota. BOSA instituted a new rule in 2020 that required all applicants to enroll in a Minnesota-approved licensure program before they could start working in Minnesota. Mr. Stringer’s case is one of the last to follow the previous rules, which did not require him to enroll before receiving his provisional license. Mr. Stringer did not enroll in a university until after his provisional license expired.

In response to the expiration of the provisional license, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) and Mr. Stringer requested to extend his provisional license for another year. According to Kinkel, an extension of a provisional license has happened just three times in the last five years. All three cases were granted extensions for various reasons: one administrator’s spouse had cancer, another administrator was deployed to Afghanistan, and the third’s university couldn’t sequence their coursework in time.

A timeline spanning from when Brett Stringer was hired by Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) to present day. (Caleb Stipkovits)

Mr. Stringer’s reasoning for not completing his coursework has to deal with two primary occurrences- the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. MPS HR Officer Maggie Sullivan wrote in a letter to BOSA, “The Covid-19 Pandemic brought unprecedented complexity… Furthermore, the murder of George Floyd… created significant additional trauma impacting South High School’s students, families, and communities.” 

Mr. Stringer’s case was processed at BOSA’s meeting on September 27th. The board had to decide whether or not to give him an extension to his provisional license and therefore give him time to complete his official license. They voted unanimously to postpone the case for their meeting in October, in order to gather more information about the issue before they make a decision. This means that Mr. Stringer won’t be principal for at least the next month, as the board put no temporary extension on his license for the time being.

In order for Mr. Stringer to get an extension on his provisional license, three out of the four board members will have to vote in his favor. If Mr. Stringer does receive an extension, he will resume his duties as principal of South while completing his coursework. If his extension is rejected, multiple things could happen. The most likely scenario is that he would complete his coursework without resuming his role as principal, and then gain his title back once he is officially licensed. On the other hand, MPS could choose to part ways with Mr. Stringer and find a new principal. If Mr. Stringer’s request for an extension is rejected and MPS retains his contract, the earliest he could become principal again would be January of 2022.  

Mr. Stringer is currently taking steps to complete this coursework while waiting for the board’s decision in October. He is now enrolled at MSU Mankato, one of the BOSA-approved schools.  This was confirmed by Jinger Gustafson in an email to BOSA.

Since he was licensed in Colorado, Mr. Stringer could end up finishing his coursework quicker than someone without any administrative license. “Board rule requires the university to analyze candidate’s transcripts to determine the appropriate coursework needed to meet the Minnesota competencies. Typically, provisional candidates are required to complete between 3 to 4 courses,” wrote Kinkel.

It was Mr. Stringer’s responsibility to inform MPS about his expired license and MPS’ responsibility to inform BOSA. However, the citizen complaint reached BOSA first. Kinkel believes this to have been an honest mistake, he feels as if it must have just slipped through the cracks. Sullivan acknowledged MPS’ error and pledged to fix practices so that this never happens again.

So how did we get to this point? It all started on August 12, 2021, when Cheryl Persigehl contacted BOSA with concerns about Mr. Stringer’s licensure status. Cheryl Persigehl and Anita Newhouse, both parents of South alums had looked into the public record and found that his provisional license had expired. “Our major reason for coming forward is that we’ve become aware of harm to families, students, staff at almost every level,” says Newhouse, who claims that this has happened due to weak leadership. The Southerner is investigating these claims.

Persigehl’s complaint was taken note of by Kinkel, and Mr. Stringer and MPS were later notified. This prompted MPS to send out a statement written by Associate Superintendent Dr. Shawn Harris-Berry on August 30th, 2021. Harris-Berry wrote, “I will temporarily assume formal responsibility for South High and will be required to provide final approval of any decisions that require a Minnesota administrative license such as hiring or discipline.”

Harris-Berry’s time at South was short, staff members were told that this was due to a family emergency. To fill her absence, Assistant Principal Stephen Simondet was promoted to interim principal starting on September 20th, 2021. Simondet will remain interim principal, as he put it, “until further notice.”

Currently, Mr. Stringer has been reassigned to the Davis Center, MPS’ headquarters. In an email sent to the Southerner, Mr. Stringer wrote, “In order to meet the letter of the law as outlined by BOSA, I am focusing [on] my [course]work outside of South until BOSA has made a decision on how to proceed next.” 

Mr. Stringer was unavailable for further comment. He said he would be open to commenting upon his potential return to South. The Southerner will update this article when Mr. Stringer is available for comment.